Maurice invited a small group of 5 Italian wine and food lovers, celebrating the pleasures of truly great Italian wine.
His wife Martine cooked us an accompanying 7-course diner, which was of an extremely high quality and a perfect match to our wines.
As expected this turned out to be a fantastic evening.
All wines tasted non-blinded.
Opening: "Un po 'di tradimento"
Started with Champagne 'cause we didn't have a top-notch Italian Bubbly.
Served with Oyster and Jerusalem Artichoke (Sergio Herman)
- 1996 Bollinger Champagne La Grande Année - France, Champagne
Delicate pearls, wonderful nose. Hazelnut, vanilla-essence, lemon-oil, hot-buttered toast, flint and yeast. Smoky minerality. Bright and juicy freshness is wonderfully linked to a viscous, slightly oily mouthfeel. Very vinous, a gorgeous Champagne. 18.5/20 (94 pts.)
Flight #1: "Piccola degustazione di vini bianchi di Miani"
Trying to become acquainted with these rare gems of Northern Italy.
Served with a black truffle salade (Peter Goossens)
- 2007 Miani Ribolla Gialla - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Colli Orientali del Friuli
Interesting, distinctive nose of smoke, flint, incense and wet rocks. Subtle fruit and stony minerality on the palate. Dense, viscous and powerful, without being clumsy or plump. Finish is marked by minimal alcoholic presence and there is a quite poignant sense of bitterness to it. Excellent. 17.5-18/20 (91 pts.)
- 2007 Miani Friulano Filip - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Venezia Giulia IGT
Exuberant and expressive nuances of roses, peach, lychee and exotic flowers and spices. Sorry to say that it does have some Alsatian Pinot Gris/Gewurztraminer resemblance on the nose, but on the palate it is complete dry, tight and very mineral. Juicy, unctuous mouthfeel that builds wonderfully through the mid-palate into a powerful, echoing finish. Very well balanced and complex, some alcohol in the finish. Great wine. 18/20 (92 pts.)
- 2007 Miani Chardonnay - Italy, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Colli Orientali del Friuli
Opened and decanted 2 hours before tasting. Cool mountainwine. Not showing much in the beginning. Opens up after extensive aeration. This appears like a very stony, mineral, terroir-driven wine. Much more like a Chablis than a Cote d'Or.Yellow fruit is present in the back, playing a supportive role. A very nice wine and, for me, a really interesting and convincing take on Chardonnay. But not as discriminate as other wines from this producer. 17.5/20 (90 pts.)
Flight #2: "Vini maturi Piemontesi"
Served with an all-time favorite:l home-made pasta and freshly grated white truffle
- 1971 Giacomo Conterno Barolo Riserva Monfortino Speciale - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Never tasted such a tertiairy mature wine that was this delightful and good. Luxury and carressing aromatics of creamy praline, roasted hazelnuts, truffles, cappuccino, sticky dates and toffee. It is utterly harmonious, strong and convincing in its delicacy. The warm and stylish mid-palate somewhere changes into a finish, and this aftertaste might even be the best part of this stupendous wine: it carries on for several minutes. The precise aromatics stay on a kind of plateau during this aftertaste and it doesn't show any trace of backslide or slack during this stage. Like the most beautiful sundown I have ever seen.. Tannines fully resolved, feels like they've never been there. This is near perfect, although a tiny dash of cherry/berry-freshness might have yielded a maximum score... 19-19.5/20 (97 pts.)
- 1982 Bruno Giacosa Barbaresco Riserva Santo Stefano - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barbaresco
Red fruit, old leather, roses and autumnal forest floor on the nose, which also showes a very distant, odd, organic kind of echo of a drying ditch. This evaporates after some swirling, but emerges again when I leave the glass alone for a while. This is just a tiny drawback from an otherwise eloquent, elegant and mysterious glass of wine. On the palate it showes excellent breed and complexity. Mushroom, brushwood, decaying leaves, hay, currants and freshly ground coffee. Fine grained, velvety, soft and ripe tannines are present. Very deep, layered and complex. Outstanding. 18.5-19/20 (95 pts.)
Flight #3: "Vini giovani Piemontesi"
Again some rustic, classic food to match these wines: succulent tenderloin cooked to perfection and garnished with black truffle. A creamy parsnip mash gave a wonderful finishing touch.
- 1989 Gaja Barolo Sperss - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
Well, this is a totally different beast. Initially served in one flight with 71 Monfortino and 82 Santo Stefano Red label, but when looking at its color (dark blood red and a black core) and after taking a tiny sniff (oak!), it was swiftly passed into the next one, accompanying 04 Rocche del Falletto Red Label.
Decidedly more oak in the bouquet, but also a lot of fresh and bright red and black fruit, which I thought was very impressive for a 23 year old wine. Huge concentration, massive mid-palate, yet well balanced and very harmonious due to powerful acidity and complexity. Cherries and roses, tar and tobacco, leather and blueberry pancakes, it's all there. Tannines were present, quite a substantial part of this modern styled wine, but never overbearing. Geez, this is good. My best Gaja to date. 19/20 (96 pts.)
- 2004 Bruno Giacosa Barolo Riserva Le Rocche del Falletto di Serralunga d'Alba - Italy, Piedmont, Langhe, Barolo
This particular wine provided the initial reason for this tasting. I was so disappointed by this wine on the previous occasion earlier this year... That's why Maurice invited me to join him when the next bottle of this legend in the making would be opened...
Well, it worked! This is regal stuff. This time the wine was opened 12 hours and decanted 3 hours prior to tasting. And that proved to be a much better preparation than the 1-hour breathing time that was given to this wine last april.
I was mesmerized by the frisky frolicking, tumbling bouquet of this wine. Bursting with youthful glee and joy of life. Cherry-/cranberry-nose, delicate oak, dried Italian herbs, new leather shoes, well polished. Floral nuances too, like roses and violets. Great (but clenched) complexity, beautiful silky tannines. Finish is endless, yet precise. Still very young and turbulent in the mouth, this already is a perplexing piece of art. 19-19.5/20 (97 pts.)
Flight #4: "Vini Toscani"
Were paired with some wonderful braised veal cheek (Hans Stefan Steinheuer).
And also during the following cheese platter course.
- 2005 Soldera (Az. Agr. Case Basse) Brunello di Montalcino Riserva - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
Open and charming. An Indian summer whafts out of the glass: dried fruits, hints of vanilla and coconut, floral aromatics. But also mushrooms, fireplace and beefstew. Some cranberries and cherry, too. This is pretty accessible at the moment. In fact, I don't think it will ever close. Very generous, smooth tannines, a great wine, yet not for the very long haul.
No problem to drink it now, will hold up for 10 years. I felt this was suffering a bit in this evening, due to the presence of many other delectable wines... 18,5/20 (94 pts.)
- 2006 Casanova di Neri Brunello di Montalcino Cerretalto - Italy, Tuscany, Montalcino, Brunello di Montalcino
Black core, ox-blood colour. Very compact and dense nose, slightly volatile. There is a thick and deep core of black fruit, but at the moment this is covered in oak, vanilla and lots of Indian ink. In the mouth this is very impressive and concentrated, but all this weight and arrogance is marbled with complexity and finesse. Again black fruit, but also tar, truffles, dark chocolate, balsam and spices like vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper. A truly great, well designed, modern-styled Brunello Riserva. If I had a bottle I would wait at least 2 years before opening it. Gorgeous. 18.5/20 (94 pts.)
To match this tasty dessert: caramel - mousse of hazelnut - ras-el-hanout-galantine.
- 1991 Avignonesi Vin Santo di Montepulciano - Italy, Tuscany, Montepulciano, Vin Santo di Montepulciano
What struck me first about this wine was its amazing color... A painter's palette showing radiant and psychedelic nuances of gold, orange, brown and... olive green! It made me think of the tiling of a seventies bathroom, for sure. Also the viscosity of this wine was something I haven't seen very often. Nose is extremely elegant, yet complex and impressive: roasted pecans, Turkish Delight, lavender honey, preserved lemon peel, dried apricots and a delicately spicy Asian seasoning. In the mouth thick and viscous like olive oil, followed by a kaleidoscopic array of nuts and dried fruit. Fortunately, this wine also has freshness, acidity and grip in spades. Lemon-oil, balsamic vinegar, marmelade and stone-like minerality give this elixir depth and plenty of vivaciousness. Needless to say that the finish is unbelievably well detailed and persistent. Sublime. A total wow-wine, certainly for a sweet tooth like me, one of the best I ever had. 19.5/20 (98 pts.)
Personal WOTN: Avignonesi Vin Santo 1991
Other wines to look out for: the rest of them!